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Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of GenjiPhilosophical Perspectives$
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James McMullen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190654979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190654979.001.0001

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Rethinking Gender in The Tale of Genji

Rethinking Gender in The Tale of Genji

(p.227) Chapter 7 Rethinking Gender in The Tale of Genji
Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji

Rajyashree Pandey

Oxford University Press

The study of gender is now seen as central to our understanding of The Tale of Genji. Scholars have focused on representations of amorous relations in the text to highlight women’s suffering, as well as their struggle for autonomy and their agency. This essay argues that categories such as women, sex, gender, and agency are historically and culturally variable and therefore cannot be treated as transhistorical and universal categories. It seeks to make visible the cultural variability of gender in the Genji by arguing that women do not uniformly constitute a self-evident and pre-given category, that gender is performative, and thus how it is performed—what constitutes being a woman—is itself shaped by class and status, and that modern liberal conceptions of agency are inadequate for understanding the Buddhist world of the text.

Keywords:   gender, agency, body, sex, woman, nunhood, resistance, Buddhism, waka, genre

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